Respect for the Body, the Temple of the Holy Spirit
We, body and soul, are destined to live with God forever. In our creed, we profess that we believe “in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” Since the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, was once washed clean in Baptism, was anointed with holy oil, and received the Body of Christ and since the body will rise again, we show great respect for the body in death. We bless the body with holy water and incense it at a funeral Mass.
Because of our belief not only in the immortality of the soul, but also in the resurrection of the body, the Church professes hope in the face of death, and acts with charity in the funeral rites. The Church provides a number of prayers for the faithful to offer both to accompany the dying of a loved one and to strengthen our faith upon their death. Through private prayer and public funeral rites, we strengthen our faith and hope, comfort those who mourn, and bury the bodily remains of the deceased with care befitting what was the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
The following is the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning funeral rites
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that all of the sacraments have as their goal the Passover of the child of God, through death, into Eternal Life. For the Christian, the day of death inaugurates the fulfillment of the new birth begun at Baptism. “The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey’s end, in order to surrender him ‘into the Father’s hands.’ She offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of His grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory” (Par. 1683, Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine. (canon 1176.3)
While the Church continues to hold a preference for corporeal burial, cremation has become part of Catholic practice in the United States and the around the world.
The Church’s reverence and care for the body grows out of a reverence and concern for the person whom the Church now commends to the care of God. This is the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. This is the body whose hands clothed the poor and embraced the sorrowing. The human body is so inextricably associated with the human person that it is hard to think of a human person apart from his or her body.
In April 1997, the Holy See granted an indult for the United States to allow the diocesan bishop to permit the presence of the cremated remains of a body at a Funeral Mass. Later that year, they confirmed the special texts and ritual directives, which were then published as an appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals.
However, the Order of Christian Funerals’ Appendix on Cremation states: “Although cremation is now permitted by the Church, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites” (no. 413).
The Order of Christian Funerals
The Order of Christian Funerals provides three types of liturgical celebrations that correspond to where they are celebrated (the home, the Church and the cemetery).
- The Vigil
The Vigil is the first gathering of family and friends after the death of a loved one. Historically this gathering occurred in the home. Relatives and friends kept vigil by the deathbed, prepared the body for burial and kept watch until time of the funeral. In more recent times, the vigil has taken place at a funeral home or the Church.
At the visitation, mourners gather to pay respects, pray, share stories and memories, and support the surviving family. Often, photos and other meaningful items from significant moments in life are put on display. The vigil prayer takes place within the visitation. It can take the form of a liturgy of the Word or evening prayer, and can be simple or elaborate.
- The Mass of Christian Burial
This liturgy is the central celebration of the Christian community for the deceased and the mourners. In the funeral liturgy, the Church’s love and care for the deceased – as well as its trust and belief in the resurrection – are acted out. The funeral liturgy focuses on the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, through the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist.
The Mass of Christian Burial includes a procession of the body, blessing with holy water and covering the casket with a white funeral pall. This is followed by the liturgies of the Word and Eucharist, and concluding prayers and song. In the liturgy we move from our physical relationship with the deceased to a spiritual one, as our loved one is committed into the Lord’s care.
- The Rite of Committal
This rite is the community’s final farewell to the deceased, where we commit our loved one to burial or entombment in the hope of the resurrection. The Rite of Committal makes use of Scripture, intercessions and prayers. “Through this act the community of faith proclaims that the grave, or place of interment, once a sign of futility and despair, has been transformed by means of Christ’s own death and resurrection into a sign of hope and promise” (Order of Christian Funerals 209). The blessed ground of a Catholic cemetery is a most fitting resting place for someone whose body was a Temple of the Holy Spirit. To be laid to rest in a holy place with fellow believers is a powerful statement of faith in Christ and His Resurrection.
To access the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Bereavement and Funerals site, please click the box below
Readings for Funerals
In this section, we provide links to the commonly suggested readings for a Catholic Funeral. We extend our sympathy to you and yours as you take a look at the following list. It is provided so that after you contact us about your loved one’s funeral, you can begin to consider the readings which will be proclaimed at the funeral. You do not need to do this; but if you would like to choose readings, we encourage you to spend time with the Scriptures.
We can also provide you with a book of these same readings to take home from the office. There may also be Bible passages or specific themes that you are not finding in this list; feel free to discuss this with Fr. Mowery.
We encourage everyone who is preparing for a loved one’s funeral to call the office and schedule a meeting with Fr. Mowery to discuss the liturgy, your loss, and anything you would like to share. If you choose readings prior to the meeting, please jot down your selections and bring them with you.
Please consider an
1. Old Testament Reading
2. New Testament Reading
3. Gospel Reading
Commonly, we use Responsorial Psalm D-1, “the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
The psalm is usually sung by our Music Director Catherine Chayko. If you choose another psalm, it may be read if we do not have a suitable musical setting for it. Musical selections can be discussed when you are in touch with the office. You can also call Ms. Chayko directly at (570) 784-0801 x 5. There are many interesting and beautiful songs in our missal that are suitable for a funeral.
Suggested Funeral Readings
The following are links to Scriptures appropriate for use at Catholic Funeral Liturgies. One reading is chosen from each the Old Testament, the New Testament, and a Gospel . Please note that these are the readings for adults. Links for recommended readings for children can be found on those pages.
Readings from the Old Testament
Readings from the New Testament
Readings from the New Testament during Easter Time
(During the Easter season one of the following readings is used as a first reading instead of a passage from the Old Testament.)
These links are also a good starting point for those wishing to consider readings for their own funerals, which people are doing more and more.